Appendix LXIII

Statement by General Sir Arnold Kemball. K.C.B., &c, Commissioner for His Grace the Duke of Sutherland, K.G.

18th May 1883.
The Duke of Sutherland infers from the tenor of your letters, asking for statistical information respecting the crofters and cottars on the west coast of Sutherland, that the Royal Commission propose to confine their operations to that quarter.

His Grace while hailing their advent there with much satisfaction, desires me to submit for their consideration, that their investigation would probably be incomplete if not extended to the east coast, where the condition of the small tenants is sufficiently prosperous to exclude them from the distress which has elsewhere overtaken the fishermen, and crofters, and cottars, owing, almost exclusively, to the effects of storms and bad weather, or to causes beyond their control, and beyond the control of the proprietor.

In addition to the returns called for by the Commissioners, which shall be forwarded with all possible despatch. I take the liberty to enclose herewith statistical returns, carefully collated, which may serve meantime to elucidate the points deserving attention. You will observe that, while on the east coast, out of an aggregate of 1216 tenants, there are (excluding cottars) 809 holding crofts which do not exceed £ 4 of rent in the Tongue district, out of an aggregate of 722 tenants there are 532 ; and in the Scourie district, out of an aggregate of 578, there are 314 of the same denomination.

I subjoin a statement (A) of the average rent per acre of arable land occupied by these people, in the respective parishes of the Dunrobin district. This average is necessarily confined to that district, as time does not admit of my procuring similar distinctive returns for the districts of Tongue and Scourie. This is, however, of the less importance, that the same average will, I believe, be found to apply to all, and will at least admit of correction when the returns called for by the Commissioners have been duly rendered.

For facility of reference, I subjoin statement (B) of the acreage of the pastures alloted to the small tenants in the several parishes. Here, their averages vary very considerably, some of the townships on the east coast having comparatively no hill grazings, a (defect which is being gradually remedied as opportunity offers), but, taken as they stand, it will be seen that the average for Dunrobin is 15 acres per holding, while that for Tongue is 68 acres, and for Scourie 133 acres.

This disparity apart, the terms being very generally the same under which the crofters occupy their lots on the east and west coasts of Sutherland, the contrast in their condition respectively at the present crisis, is to be accounted for by the fact that on the one side more generally than the other, crofters combine tillage with a seafaring life, limited to the herring fishing, of which the proceeds are always precarious, and rely therefore less exclusively on their proper craft for a livelihood.

At Brora, and more especially at Embo, the fisher population are without crofts, and confining themselves as they do to their trade, are not affected by the bad seasons and other causes, which bring distress to the small crofters. This contrast, however, is also in no small degree due to the superior advantages enjoyed by the east coast fishermen in the means afforded them of transit to southern markets, as well by the railway as by their proximity to the ports of Aberdeen, Banff, & c , &c. Again the available arable land on the west coast being generally inferior in quality, and the climate perhaps more adverse to agriculture, the industry of the people seems to be prejudicially affected thereby, to the way of indisposing them to improvements, and of exposing them to distress from causes which are less severely felt by their equals on the cast coast, whose crofts are little or no larger, and whose grazings are infinitely less.

Some weight may be given to the fact that their is a larger expenditure by the proprietor and his large tenants on the cast coast than on the west, also that very large sums of money have in recent years been disbursed for railways and reclamations on the east coast; though, in this last respect, in all that concerns the supply of labour, the people of the west coast are believed to have been benefitted to an equal degree.
P.S. (2)—It must be understood that the rent of which the average is given annexed at 8/9 per acre of arable land includes the hill pasture for which no separate rent is charged. The same remark applies to all the districts.

paying rent up to £4 per year.

No of crofters
Arable acres
Total rent (£ s d)
Average rent per acre (£ s d)
958 ½
401 19 9
0 8 5
22 19 9
0 11 6
311 15 2
0 7 6
56 4 9
0 7 9
307 6 8
0 9 6
263 ½
115 17 5
0 8 9
121 ½
108 9 1
0 17 10
267 11 7
0 8 2

3649 ½
1592 4 2
0 8 9

Appendix B.

Number of tenants
Total acres
Hill grazing
Average acres
Hill grazing


STATEMENT showing details of Evictions that have been carried out on the Sutherland Estate, from the accession of the present Duke in February 1861 to 31st December 1882, a total of 22 years.

1861. None.
1862. William Murray, Balvraid, Dornoch. Large croft neglected. Rent 2 years in arrear. Olfered a smaller lot which was not accepted.
1862. Widow William Bannerman, Gartymore, Kildonan. House in ruins. Offered a tiled house.
1862. William Mackay, Muie, Rogart. Nephew of late tenant. Croft required for a neighbouring crofter who had to be removed from the lot previously held.
1863. Robert Macdonald, Astel, Dornoch. Took possession of a house on another person's lot, in right of his wife and children by a former husband.
1864. None.
1865. David Davidson, Creich, Dornoch. House in ruins, land added to adjoining tenant.
1865. Lexy and Johan Campbell, Rhianmore, Lairg. Nieces of late tenant, considered unable to manage the croft. Offered a smaller croft, which they ultimately accepted.
1865. Gordon Matheson, Portgower, Loth. Rent 9 years in arrear.
1866. Hugh Murray, Linside, Creich. Succeeded on his brother's death to 2 lots, and refused to give up one to his brother's widow.
1867, ’68 and ’69: None.
1870. Widow Alexander Mackay, 83 Inchope, Rogart. Croft neglected, no stock. Would not give up place to a son who promised to come and work the croft, and take care of his mother.
1870. John Mackay, 148 Little Rogart, Rogart. Rent 2 years in arrear. Croft neglected. Tenant recently imprisoned for stealing meal.
1871. None.
1872. Widow Niel Lamont, Inverkirkaig, Assynt. Lived in a house next door to a tenant, with whom a feud arose and a fight. Another house was offered and declined. She was removed, and subsequently accepted the other house.
1873. None
1874. Henrietta Ross, Tomich, Lairg. Persisted in interfering with a road drain.
1874. Robert Mackenzie, Balvolich, Durness. Commenced to erect a bothy on his father's lot, in which he persisted.
1875. None.
1876. John Melville Doll, Clyne. Occupied part of the house belonging to a crofter, having been allowed to squat there by a previous tenant, he was a most disagreeable neighbour.
1877. Colin Mackenzie, Clashnessie, Assynt. Occupied a house on the common pasture. He was a notorious swindler.
1878. Murdo Macrae, Culkeia Drumbeg, Assynt. Took violent possession of a house which was previously occupied by his brother. It was an old Schoolmaster's house, and on the brother's vacation of it had been given to the tenant of adjoining lot, who had a very bad house.
1879, ’80 and ’81: None.
1882: Andrew Mackenzie, Muie, Rogart. The second of four sons of widow Donald Mackenzie, the tenant of the croft. For some time this son and another unmarried son, who also lived on the croft, have not agreed, and Andrew has behaved unkindly towards his mother ; so much so, that she determined to leave the croft, and live with another married son. It was explained distinctly to mother and son, that, if their disagreements ended in her giving up the croft, mother ultimately left the croft, and Andrew was removed.
STAFFORD HOUSE. 29th March 1883.
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